The Ministry of Education has rejected the findings of a
newly released report showing two out of three New Zealand
secondary schools have reported a worse financial year in
2012 than 2011, and a quarter have dealt with deficits in the
past three years.
Otago secondary school principals are not surprised by the
The latest New Zealand Council for Education Research
national survey took place in July and August 2012, and is
conducted every three years to provide a comprehensive
picture of the education system, allowing it to track issues
Questionnaires went to all principals of New Zealand's 322
state and integrated secondary schools, and 55% responded.
The 2012 survey pre-dated the difficulties with Novopay,
which have preoccupied many schools in recent months.
However, one of the main findings was government funding
remained a key issue for schools, with 66% reporting a worse
financial year last year than in 2011.
It also found steering their school back from a deficit was
listed by 24% of principals as one of their main achievements
during the past three years.
Principals surveyed said factors contributing to the
situation included rising fixed costs; the introduction of
allocating roll-based operational funding to schools each
quarter using actual roll numbers at that time, rather than
March rolls; less income than expected; a decrease in
voluntary school fees/donations; fewer international
fee-paying pupils, and an unexpected roll decrease.
The survey report said rises in fixed costs posed a greater
challenge for those schools whose rolls dropped unexpectedly,
because it eroded some of their ability to provide for their
Of the 30% of secondary schools which reported doing better
financially last year than in 2011, 18% said it was because
they had cut their spending.
Ministry of Education group manager Marilyn Scott said the
funding formula had not changed.
She said secondary schools had been asked to report pupil
numbers four times a year to more accurately reflect their
''Schools are adequately funded to deliver the curriculum so
that all students are able to learn and achieve.''
Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Brent
Russell said he was not surprised at the ministry's reaction.
''It's what we hear every year.''
He said schools and associated organisations had campaigned
for increases in operations grants numerous times, and each
year principals grappled with making savings to make sure
their budgets were balanced.
''The reality is that costs keep rising and the operations
grant must keep pace with those.
''Water, electricity, heating and wages are all increasing.
''Clearly, the operations grants are not keeping up with the
pace. If it were, there wouldn't be so many school deficits
around the country.
''We try to make the money go as far as we can. It's a system
we work within to the best of our ability.''